‘Superhuman’ team of scientists write new book in one
Last updated on 11/28/2016 Print this page
Writing a book is often a solitary affair taking weeks, months
or even years to complete. But a team of scientists led by a University
of Hull professor has produced a 250-page book on the powers of
superheroes in just one
The book, with the working title of
‘What Superheroes Eat for Breakfast and Other Superpowered
Questions’, was completed in just 36 hours by a team of 14 authors
and three illustrators.
The writers came together for a ‘book
sprint’ at the
Salford Science Jam at the Manchester Science
Festival. Members of the public were encouraged to wander among
the writers and ask questions, some of which made it into the
Fuelled by lots of coffee and takeaways,
the team of writers churned out 60,000 words and more than 20
illustrations, delving into the science that underpins superhero
Professor Mark Lorch, a leading expert in science communication
at the University of Hull, assembled the team of academics from
universities across the UK.
The team put in a superhuman effort to get the book
written in such a short timescale,” said Professor
The process was completely different to locking
yourself away in a quiet room and trying to concentrate. It was
full of distractions and noisy but it was fun, social and
collaborative in a way that traditional writing just
If people wanted to know something about a topic or
were stuck, they would just yell out to the room and somebody would
chip in with the answer.
Most of us were scientists but we didn’t actually know
that much about superheroes. Luckily, we had a few real comic book
aficionados who could fill in the gaps in our
There was lots of coffee and takeaways and the debris
built up around us during the weekend.
The book is due to be published by the
Royal Society of Chemistry next spring.
Each chapter explains the scientific
bases of a superpower, assuming that scientific laws apply to the
comic book characters.
Topics tackled by the team included what
superheroes eat for breakfast; how to genetically engineer a super
soldier; the Hulk’s metabolic processes and the science behind
manufacturing super alloys like vibranium and adamantium.
Have you ever wondered how much energy
the Human Torch would need to maintain his temperature? The book
answers this question and also looks at how superheroes use big
data to solve crimes.
Another chapter poses the question – if
you were going to be a super villain, what disease would you
create? Would you create a zombie apocalypse or would werewolves
and vampires be a better way of taking over the world?
Professor Lorch came up with the idea
for the ‘book sprint’ after he wrote an article about how many eggs
Spiderman would have to eat for breakfast to generate enough
protein to create his webs.
The answer, he calculated, was up to 900
The story, which was written as a way of
tackling boredom while he waited in an airport lounge, was picked
up by The Times and led to a TEDx talk.
Following its publication, the Royal
Society of Chemistry asked him to write a book on superhero science
but in doing so he realised he needed his own league of
extraordinary scientists to complete the task.
Professor Lorch added:
The book is aimed at fans of comic books and movies.
It’s written to be accessible for teenagers upwards. The book isn’t
about debunking the science. It’s about trying to explain how the
science might work.
- Professor Lorch will be leading an
MSc in Public Engagement and Science Communication, which
starts in 2017. The programme will equip science graduates with the
practical skills they need to explain complex issues and
collaborate effectively in the world of work. Students will get the
opportunity to work with professional science communicators,
creative writers, theatre performers and journalists - and gain
real world experience through a work placement.